Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

What Twitter Won't Tell You About the Election

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, February 8 2012

A new study released on Tuesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press on Tuesday offers the opportunity to get real about what the political conversation on Twitter and Facebook can — or can't — tell you about the progression of the 2012 political campaign.

Pew has found that even among users of Twitter and Facebook, a paltry percentage of people use social networks to get news about politics: Only 24 percent of Twitter users in the sample and 25 percent of Facebook users said they "sometimes" got campaign news through that network, while a full 40 percent of Twitter users in the sample and 46 percent of Facebook users reported "never" getting campaign news through the network. Over half of the 1,507 respondents included in the survey results used some social network; fewer than 150 respondents reported using Twitter. Only 11 percent of respondents aged 18-29 reported getting regular campaign news from Facebook and 4 percent of that group had the same to say about Twitter; older respondents report getting even less news in this way.

In short: Hardly anyone who was on Twitter in early January used it to regularly have political conversations. This offers a possible explanation for why mining social media data for information about the "political zeitgeist" so closely follows the conventional wisdom of the moment — there are so few people on Twitter talking about politics on a regular basis that I would venture to guess that many of them are the same folks inventing that wisdom, on one side of a reporter's notebook or the other. That may change as the campaign swings from primary season to the general election; it might not. We'll have to wait and see.

Far more of those surveyed found their information through cable news. Among people who did get their news online, more respondents — 24 percent — said they looked first to CNN.com. Meanwhile, seven in ten voters, 72 percent, say they have seen or heard campaign commercials, per Pew.

In 2008, Brian Stelter quoted a market researcher saying that the stance of one college student was, "If the news is that important, it will find me." The Pew results indicate that in politics, if any news is finding Americans online at all right now, it must be very important indeed.

Transparency and Public Shaming: Pakistan Tackles Tax Evasion

In Pakistan, where only one in 200 citizens files their income tax return, authorities published a directory of taxpayers' details for the first time. Officials explained the decision as an attempt to shame defaulters into paying up.

GO

wednesday >

Facebook Seeks Approval as Financial Service in Ireland. Is the Developing World Next?

On April 13 the Financial Times reported that Facebook is only weeks away from being approved as a financial service in Ireland. Is this foray into e-money motivated by Facebook's desire to conquer the developing world before other corporate Internet giants do? Maybe.

GO

The Rise and Fall of Iran's “Blogestan”

The robust community of Iranian bloggers—sometimes nicknamed “Blogestan”—has shrunk since its heyday between 2002 – 2010. “Whither Blogestan,” a recent report from the University of Pennsylvania's Iran Media Program sought to find out how and why. The researchers performed a web crawling analysis of Blogestan, survey 165 Persian blog users, and conducted 20 interviews with influential bloggers in the Persian community. They found multiple causes of the decline in blogging, including increased social media use and interference from authorities.

GO

tuesday >

Weekly Readings: What the Govt Wants to Know

A roundup of interesting reads and stories from around the web. GO

Russia to Treat Bloggers Like Mass Media Because "the F*cking Journalists Won't Stop Writing"

The worldwide debate over who is and who isn't a journalist has raged since digital media made it much easier for citizen journalists and other “amateurs” to compete with the big guys. In the United States, journalists are entitled to certain protections under the law, such as the right to confidential sources. As such, many argue that blogging should qualify as journalism because independent writers deserve the same legal protections as corporate employees. In Russia, however, earning a place equal to mass media means additional regulations and obligations, which some say will lead to the repression of free speech.

GO

Politics for People: Demanding Transparent and Ethical Lobbying in the EU

Today the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU) launched a campaign called Politics for People that asks candidates for the European Parliament to pledge to stand up to secretive industry lobbyists and to advocate for transparency. The Politics for People website connects voters with information about their MEP candidates and encourages them to reach out on Facebook, Twitter or by email to ask them to sign the pledge.

GO

monday >

Security Agencies Given Full Access to Telecom Data Even Though "All Lebanese Can Not Be Suspects"

In late March, Lebanese government ministers granted security agencies unrestricted access to telecommunications data in spite of some ministers objections that it violates privacy rights. Global Voices reports that the policy violates Lebanon's existing surveillance and privacy law, Law 140, but has gotten little coverage from the country's mainstream media.

GO

More